In This Issue:
  • President’s Message
  • 2020 FOAM Annual Meeting!
  • 50/50 On the Water Film Tour
  • Madison River Recreation Plan Update
  • Guiding 4 the Future: May 2020 Practicum!


President’s Message

Dear FOAM Outfitters & Guides,

As we embark on a new year with new projects, challenges, and victories, I wanted to take a moment to re-cap all that FOAM and its membership worked on and accomplished in 2019. It has been quite the year, and we have much to be proud of. In the midst of all the work our organization has been involved in, FOAM has been fortunate to welcome new Directors to the Board, which has brought fresh ideas and renewed energy to the organization. With the eagerness of the Directors, Executive Director, and members to best serve the fishing industry, I look forward to all that FOAM will achieve in 2020!

  • New Board Members: In February 2019, much-respected Director Russell Parks’ (Missoula area) term expired, and the Board welcomed new-comer Tony Reinhardt to the table. In March, at FOAM’s Annual Meeting, membership voted to expand the Board by adding a second Guide-at-Large position thus creating Guide-at-Large (East) and Guide-at-Large (West) representation. In addition, both Guide-at-Large positions were granted voting rights. Dan Smith of Bozeman represents the eastern reaches, while Missoulian Zach Scott speaks for the western portion of the state. After many years of service to FOAM, Board President Brant Oswald stepped down, and Jason Fleury was voted in as President. Brant will still be an active participant of FOAM with his work on G4F and as Senior Advisor to the Board (a non-voting position).
  • Madison Negotiated Rule-making Committee (NRC): The Madison’s Negotiated Rule Making Committee began in early 2019, and Executive Director Mike Bias was selected to be on the Committee to represent FOAM.  With a federal government shut down, the facilitator chosen by FWP was unable to attend the first scheduled meetings in January, and the meetings was cancelled. FWP did not have a backup plan in place, and as the shutdown lingered, the second set of meetings also had to be cancelled.  FWP planned on holding eight NRC meetings to develop a plan (with consensus required by all Committee members) that could be presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission by their April 2019 meeting.  The NRC struggled to come to any unanimous decisions, and on May 2 the Committee disbanded when all members couldn’t agree on whether to proceed with the process.  The inability of the NRC to formulate a plan led to uncertainty by both the Commission and FWP regarding how to proceed with a potential plan for the Madison.
  • Madison River Recreation Plan: In November, upon hearing that the Madison River Foundation and George Grant TU filed petitions to ask the Commission to accept the original Madison recreational use plan (which had been proposed by FWP and denied by the Commission in April 2018), FOAM filed a petition of its own for a Madison Commercial Use Plan.  All three petitions were rejected, and we have continued working to develop an acceptable solution that can be adopted by the Commission.  To give perspective to the amount of time and energy this endeavor has required, in 2019, Mike and I together have logged 2,610 miles and spent a total of 536 hours in meetings along with 410 hours on the phone discussing potential solutions with FWP, the Commissioners and our members.  We each individually worked many more hours on behalf of FOAM as well on this important issue.  We continue our efforts to work with all parties involved as this process continues.
  • Guiding for the Future (G4F): After several years of development, Guiding for the Future, an advanced training program for professional outfitters and guides, came to life with its first course offered in May 2019.  Twenty-two students graduated from the three-day course, and without hesitation, we can say it was a great success.  All who participated were pleased with how much they took away from the course, and with our second course being offered May 10-15, 2020, the foundation has been laid for continued success.
  • Annual Membership Meeting & 50/50 on the Water Film Fest: 2019’s Annual Meeting was held at Chico Hot Springs, a new Annual Meeting location, with the intention of increasing enthusiasm, amenities, activities, and offerings, and creating a destination event that lent itself to spouses and families joining in for a weekend getaway.  In addition, for the first time, we held a raffle for a brand new Clackacraft drift boat. We will again be offering a Clackacraft boat as well as a new raft in our raffle this year, so don’t miss out on your 1/100 chance to win either craft – we only have a few tickets remaining! This year’s Annual Meeting will be held at the Rialto in Downtown Bozeman on February 28; in conjunction with the Annual Meeting, we will also be hosting our first ever film fest with 50/50 on the Water on February 27.  Purchase your tickets today!  Half of all proceeds from the film fest will go towards Casting for Recovery. In working to increase Annual Meeting attendee numbers, we are hosting our Annual Meeting for two years in a row in the same region – 2021 and 2022’s meetings will be held in the Missoula region.  Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any suggestions on what additional sessions FOAM can offer at the Annual Meeting that would be of interest/value to you and your business.
  • Monthly Updates: With all of the meetings, rule-making, legislation, and activities currently going on, we will be emailing monthly updates to membership this year. It’s our hope that these bite-size, information-laden mailings will keep you up-to-date on everything that is happening and assist you in best advocating for yourself, your clients, and the industry.

With your support, we are hopeful that 2020 will see a positive outcome for the Madison River Recreation Plan, and we will keep working towards a solution that works for our commercial interests.  As always, if you have questions or concerns, your Executive Director and Board Members are happy to help!

Jason Fleury


2020 Annual Meeting! 

Friday, 28 February 2020
Rialto Theater, Bozeman

This year’s FOAM Annual Meeting will be Friday, February 28th, at the Rialto Theater in Bozeman.

Thursday, February 27th, will be the Board of Directors meeting with our annual FOAM First Aid Class on Thursday afternoon from 3-5 pm following the Board meeting.

Friday will consist of our 2020 Annual Meeting with confirmed speakers from around Montana including the Board of Outfitters, Fish & Wildlife Commission, and Fish, Wildlife & Parks.  We will have a cash bar provided by the Rialto Theater and our awesome raffle.  You will also have an opportunity to win a new 2020 ClackaCraft 16-foot LP Drift Boat or a SmithFly Big Shoals Raft – or both!  Only 100 tickets for each boat will be sold.  All proceeds go to help FOAM’s Conservation Fund.

We have a block of rooms reserved for the Board Meeting and Annual Meeting at The Lark, a very cool hotel just a block away from the Rialto in Bozeman as well.  They are going fast!

2020 FOAM Annual Meeting Tickets are available online here.
50/50 On the Water Film Tour! 

Join us Thursday night, February 27th, at the Rialto Theater in Bozeman for the 50/50 On the Water Film Tour!  Tickets are available online here.

We will have a cash bar provided by the Rialto Theater, our awesome raffle, and plenty of schwag.  You will also have an opportunity to purchase raffle tickets to win a new 2020 ClackaCraft 16-foot LP Drift Boat or a SmithFly Big Shoals Raft – or both!  Only 100 tickets for each boat will be sold.

From education & adventure experiences, to nonprofit partnerships and women-centric storytelling, the 50/50 On the Water Film Tour is here to inspire and celebrate women in the sport we all love – fly fishing.

All proceeds from this event go to support the:

Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana’s (FOAM) Guiding for the Future program, an advanced training program for professional outfitters and guides; and,

Casting for Recovery’s (CfR) programs that provide healing outdoor retreats for women with breast cancer, at no cost to the participants.


Madison River Plan Update

Last week (19 to 24 January 2020) was roller coaster ride for the Madison River Recreation Plan with the week culminating in what we view as a one in million opportunity to get a reasonable plan into place.

As many of you know, the Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) public scoping process ended on January 6th, in that process we had submitted our plan to FWP and the Fish & Wildlife Commission (Commission) as comment.  Following that submittal, we had set up a meeting for Friday, January 24th, with FWP Fisheries Division staff, Eileen Rice and Don Skaar, Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Pat Byorth, and the George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited (GGTU) president, Mark Thompson, to discuss reasonable timeline for a plan to go forward from FWP to the Commission and what to incorporate into that plan.  We felt obligated to assure that FWP incorporates our commercial use recommendations into any Madison plan they propose to the Commission and to impress upon them the urgency of this process to proceed before outfitters begin their operations in 2020.  Further, if we could reasonably incorporate the management recommendations from outfitters and GGTU into an agreed upon plan for FWP to propose to the Commission, the better.

Just prior to last Friday’s meeting, invitations were extended also to the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA), Chris Gentry of Madison Foods in Ennis representing local business interests, and Brian McGeehan, an outfitter on the Madison.  Brian has also amassed a great deal of knowledge and information of recreation management plans in other states and has worked well to share this knowledge with Commissioners and FWP.  Roy Morris, past president and board member of GGTU, also attended the meeting, while Chris Gentry and Steve Lubeck, GGTU board member, attended via conference call.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting, we knew that GGTU was going to stick to their guns and recommend at least a 4-day rest and rotation schedule and only be willing to utilize 2017 historical data for allocated days within the plan for managing commercial use.  We were not optimistic for a reasonable solution for a plan as we did not feel rest and rotation was a long-term solution to crowding and we had little desire for managing any allocation based on 2017 outfitter use numbers.

Surprisingly, the meeting went better than expected, MOGA contributed productively on many points.  Brian McGeehan added information on a total allocative plan, both for commercial and non-commercial use of the river.  He indicated that a good starting point might be a vessel pass for all boats including tubes on the lower river, and once the data on use numbers was obtained the department could begin a management scenario based on those numbers.  We were in full agreement to start gathering accurate data on non-commercial recreational use of the Madison River.  With the adoption of any management of non-commercial users, we confirmed with FWP that commercial use would be kept separate from any future common pool of allocated days as our users (clients) are already allocated.

In the last fifteen minutes of the meeting, GGTU proposed that we try and come to agreement on at least a few of the issues.  They proposed:

  • the plan utilizes 2019 outfitter use numbers to set historical allocation of trips for commercial users and an acceptance of flex days for commercial users;


  • open the entire river – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake – to float fishing year-round for all users;


  • contingent upon the entire river being opened to float fishing, incorporate a 2-day rest and rotation schedule, Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge will be closed to commercial use on Saturday and Burnt Tree to Ennis Lake on Sunday, during July and August and sunsetting at the conclusion of two years; and,


  • transferability of permits, with any future change in legislation incorporating the ability to transfer small increments of historical use days among SRP holders.  At this point, MOGA confirmed that this could monetize permit transfers and that would be acceptable to FWP.

These points were unanimously agreed upon by all in attendance, including FWP.

Following that morning meeting, we met with Mike Cooney, Lieutenant Governor, and Patrick Holmes, Natural Resource director for Governor Bullock, that afternoon.  The Governor’s Office relayed that they were happy that somewhat opposing parties could reach an agreement and that they would work with FWP Director Martha Williams to allow this to go forward.

On Monday, 27 January 2020, we received a confirming email from FWP summarizing last Friday’s meeting where the group agreed that we could all live with the above agreed upon points.

The next step would entail that FWP staff begin work on a draft plan documenting the agreed management recommendations.  FWP staff will draft the proposal to the Commission in a user-friendly format that would more easily allow the public to comment in detail on the pros and cons of management alternatives.  The plan would be presented to the Commission most likely at a special Commission meeting in March 2020, then that plan would go to public comment if approved by the Commission.

Like the Governor’s Office, we were excited at the opportunity to discuss management options for a recreation management plan for the Madison River.  We are fully committed and look forward to working with MOGA, GGTU, FWP, the Commission, and others to develop a sustainable commercial use management plan for the Madison River.


Guiding for the Future

In 2020, Guiding for the Future (G4F) will host a certification course for up to 25 students.  The program includes online study at students’ own pace, February-April, and a four-day practicum May 10-14 in Emigrant, MT.  Selected students will be evaluated and tested on their knowledge and performance, and presented with a set of credentials that distinguish them to outfitters, clients, other river users, and agencies.  In addition, G4F plans to offer additional program in the fall of 2020 addressing specific interests of the guiding community—for example swift water rescue and best business practices.  This year’s G4F program will be $200 for students, a $1,300 value that includes all room & board, online course material access, and all necessary course materials.

In May 2019, 22 professional guides and outfitters became the first graduates of G4F after successfully completing a rigorous course of online study and intensive hands-on practicum. Collectively, graduating students demonstrated competence in modules focused on the History of Conservation, Laws and Regulations, Hydrology and River Ecology, Fish Biology and Ecology, Entomology, Water Users and Challenges, Guides as Stewards, and Beyond Flies and Drifts (best practices of the trade).  The curriculum was developed and presented by experienced instructors from state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, private businesses, and individual guides and outfitters.

The first cohort of guides and outfitters arrived with plenty of skepticism as their participation took time away from families and time off the water.  Asked to be frank and critical about the program, the inaugural class rated the program 8.8 out of 10 and the following two student testimonials are illustrative as the overall responses:

“As the owner of Montana Fly Fishing Guides, LLC, this program was equally valuable to both new and veteran guides. I found both immediate practical applications as well as detailed information that my clients will enjoy discussing on our fishing days.  I will be encouraging all of my guides to participate in the upcoming years as it simply makes you a better guide, instructor, and informed advocate for our industry.” – Eric, Livingston, MT

“I feel this program was hugely valuable in that it focused on big picture topics relevant to our industry as well as dealing with day-to-day topics like risk assessment, rules and regulations governing our industry and guide ethics.  There is no doubt in my mind that going through the inaugural course has made me a better guide and I would like nothing better than to have all of my guides go through the program in the future.  The broad base of study offered through the course is exactly what we should be seeking as guides looking to continuously grow and improve.”  – Jason, Helena, MT

G4F is a project of the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) and directed by a steering committee comprised of representatives from the fly-fishing industry, aquatic conservation community and other professionals.   To date, G4F has enjoyed strong support from the fly-fishing industry, conservation organizations, and individuals.

G4F is not about landing the most or biggest fish, but rather emphasizes knowledge, ethics, conservation, and a commitment to stewardship as core responsibilities of a professional guide.  The program provides advanced levels of knowledge and skill development for professional fishing guides and aims to inspire dedicated stewardship of aquatic ecosystems while increasing the knowledge and professionalism of guides, outfitters, and the fly-fishing industry as a whole.

For more information on the program, or to get your name on the applicants list, please visit or contact Mike Bias at 406-925-2276 or Whitney Tilt, G4F Program Coordinator at 406-223-8972 or
Important Upcoming Meetings

13 February, Fish & Wildlife Commission Meeting, 08:30 am to 5:00 pm, FWP Headquarters, Helena

27 February, FOAM Board of Directors Meeting, 10 am to 3 pm, Rialto Theater, Bozeman

27 February, FOAM First Aid Course, 3 to 6 pm, Rialto Theater, Bozeman

27 February, 50/50 On the Water Film Tour, 6 to 11 pm, Rialto Theater, Bozeman

28 February, 2020 FOAM Annual Meeting, 9 am to 5 pm, Rialto Theater, Bozeman